November 2001

Daniel Simpson


Daniel Simpson teaches English and Creative Writing at The Philadelphia High School for Girls. He has been published or has work forthcoming in Hampden-Sydney Review, Prairie Schooner, Philomel, and Dialogue, among others.
A Few Things     

I don't know how they keep you on a cross
when they first start the hammering.
I don't know how they make chocolate.
I don't know which parts of a tuna they put in a can
and what they do with the rest of it.
I don't know what I'll do with the rest of my life.
I don't know any more who sat
behind Bobby Sabol in fourth grade.
I don't know why we tell so many sad stories.
I don't know what the Skinheads next door talk about
or what the cockatiel lady likes for lunch.
I don't know what a rainbow looks like,
or that my life would be better if I could see one.
I don't know why I'm writing all of this down.
I know all the vegetables in V-8 juice.
There are at least a dozen ways to say "snow" in Inuit.
I don't know that vulnerability is any better than hope
or that they really aren't the same.
I don't know who killed the grooms in Duncan's room.
I don't know at what point you should retire a working dog.
They have three roller coasters at Knoble's Grove.
My mother laughed a lot when we rode The Flume.
Or maybe it's four. I can't remember now.
I don't know why some people give up and others don't.



What Else Can You Do   


No matter how you go, you'll be at risk.
Car, plane, bus, train, on foot—
none strangers to catastrophe.


So many things to do before leaving:

pull the important plugs—
stereo, TV, VCR.
Lightning loves these things.
And there's the computer,
its power strips stuffed into sockets.

Better check the faucets.
And the porch furniture—
bring that in
in case of hurricane.


At Aunt Joan's funeral
we sang
"A Mighty Fortress."
I stood
next to Uncle Steve
who sang loud,
     Were they to take our house,
     Goods, honor, child, or spouse,
     Though life be wrenched away,
     They cannot win the day.

as his hands were shaking.


The only way to really know
if a stove is off is to touch it,
hands flat on burners,
because you never can be sure
the indicator lights
aren't burned out.
If you get scorched, it's punishment.
That's how some parents teach their children
not to play with matches.


"Come as the fire and burn."
That's what the Baptist minister prayed
while Jane, the organist,
whispered a hymn on the voix celeste.
"Come as the light and reveal."


Remember Puerto Rico,
when we danced all night long
with strangers we felt we'd known
from childhood, the rain
drenching the tin roof
overhead? Such possibility
of losing ourselves in sobbing
with Rodolfo for Mimi
as if she were our own
and nothing else mattered.


I have been waiting inside
for friends to come.
I had been thinking
they would skim up my walk.
I had been feeling
in my mind
the porch shake
as they ran up its steps
to knock on my door.
"Come to the movies," they would have panted.
"Drop everything.
We are going to a matinee."
What am I waiting for?


Poor Margaret in goldengrove.
Unleaving was her problem.
It's just another way of saying
the same thing.

What else can you do
when the fire of leaves starts tumbling
but cry your fill
then leave the stereo blaring,
and walk down your front steps
without checking the door?



Daniel Simpson: Poetry
Copyright © 2001 The Cortland Review Issue 18The Cortland Review